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Walking The Coastal Path at Cley, a View of Cley Windmill

Planning and Development on the Norfolk Coast

The Town and Country Planning System is one of the most important statutory means of conserving and enhancing natural beauty.

The purpose of this section is to help people understand how planning works in the Area, how to take part in the planning process, and how the Norfolk Coast Partnership’s built environment strategy can help protect and enhance the Area.

How are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty special in planning terms?

AONBs are of national and international importance as well as being a local asset. The quality of the area’s natural beauty underpins its attraction for visitors, which supports a major sector of the local economy.

These areas are designated to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy. They are much loved and valued by both visitors and local residents, but they remain living, working landscapes. They are powerful symbols of our national pride: places of motivation, inheritance, excitement and pleasure.

This is reflected in planning policies and guidelines which outline how higher standards in planning terms apply in the Area to protect their special qualities.

Equal status to national parks

The National Planning Policy Framework (paragraph 172) confirms that AONBs and national parks have equal status in terms of their landscape quality and protection.

‘Great weight should be given to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to these issues’.

Statutory purpose has to be taken into account in planning

The purpose of designating AONBs must be taken into consideration by Local Planning Authorities when developing planning policies and strategies and also when assessing planning applications.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW Act) places a statutory duty on relevant authorities to have ‘regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area when exercising or performing any functions affecting land in the area’. ‘Relevant authorities’ are any public bodies including local and statutory authorities, parish councils and statutory regulators.

In practice this should contribute to:

  • Stronger protection than areas that are not designated
  • More careful control/consideration of impacts of development
  • Higher standards of design.

Planning for Housing within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) is the collective voice of the AONB Partnerships and Conservation Boards and represents the AONB network on issues of strategic national importance. They have published their key messages and position statement.

Download the NAAONB Position Statement Planning for Housing >

Flint cobbles and brick in Cley-next-the-Sea

Flint cobbles and brick in Cley.

Settlements and building materials

The use of local chalk, flint (cobbles and ‘knapped’) and brick, with rich brown carstone (an iron-rich sandstone seen in Hunstanton Cliffs) as well in the west of the area, together with pantile roofs and architectural influences from the near continent, has given a distinctive and locally varied character to the area’s buildings. Despite the large areas of reedbed along the coast, there is relatively little use of thatch for roofing.

Charming vernacular buildings can be seen in every settlement. The older parts of villages often have a distinctive pattern of settlement, particularly along the north Norfolk coast, where they sit along the edge of the higher land above the marshes.

The core of almost every settlement in the area is a designated Conservation Area for its heritage and traditional architecture and more information about Conservation Areas can be found using the links below:

Conservation Areas in the Borough of Kings Lynn & West Norfolk  >
Conservation Areas in North Norfolk District >
Conservation Areas in Great Yarmouth Borough >

Chalk, carstone, flint and brick in Burnham Overy

Chalk, carstone, flint and brick at Burnham Overy.

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